Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Himalaya Spring 2015: Slow Start to the Season

The 2015 spring climbing season in the Himalaya is only a few days old, and already the weather is of primary concern for the teams. Over on Annapurna the heavy snow is keeping the climbers firmly in Base Camp while they wait to launch a summit bid. Meanwhile back in Kathmandu, most of the mountaineers are still arriving in the country only to discover that the weather is delaying their departure for the mountains as well.

Alan Arnette arrived on the scene yesterday and is preparing for his expedition to climb Lhotse this spring. Yesterday he shared a dispatch from Kathmandu with an update on the situation there. He reports that poor weather in the Khumbu Valley is keeping most teams from departing for the Everest region. Low hanging clouds in Lukla are preventing flights from landing or taking off at that notoriously dangerous airport. As a result, many climbers are stuck in Nepal's capital and waiting for the skies to clear. (By the way, ExWeb has a good interview with Alan that you can read here.)

It is not uncommon in the early part of the season to have weather keep flights grounded. Alan says that fog, rain, and heavy snow are making the Khumbu a challenge to get in and out of at the moment, and while many teams are heading to the Kathmandu airport, they end up waiting for hours for a flight that doesn't take off, only to return to their hotel at the end of the day once again. Hopefully conditions will improve soon and the anxious men and women can start their long trek to Everest Base Camp.

Speaking of EBC, most teams have already sent their support staff to the mountain, where they are busily preparing camp for the arrival of the climbers. Also in Base Camp on the South Side are the Icefall Doctors, the team of Sherpas whose job it is to build and maintain the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall. The team is already busy scouting and establishing the safest path through the Icefall, but they have not completed that task just yet. Until they do, no one will be able to climb up to Camp 1 or the higher portions of the mountain.

As mentioned, the teams are at a standstill on Annapurna where they are waiting for the weather to improve. But on Monday of this week American climber Alex Barber arrived in BC and is preparing for his solo attempt – sans O's – on the mountain. He was expected to have his Puja ceremony yesterday, which means he will now be free to begin his climb. Expect Alex to start his acclimatization rotations today or tomorrow, weather permitting of course.

Right now, it seems that everything is "hurry up and wait" in Kathmandu. But with a little patience things should start to move again soon. Teams will be on their way to Base Camp before they know it, and the true climbing season will begin at long last.

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